News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Fewer deaths, complications with robotic bladder cancer surgery, but cost is higher
UCLA

With technological advancements opening the door to less invasive medical procedures, robotic-assisted surgery is becoming increasingly popular, despite being more expensive than traditional surgery. Robotic-assisted surgical removal of the bladder due to cancer is a new approach to the traditional “open” — or more invasive — operation called a radical cystectomy. Bladder cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and the American Cancer Society estimates that 73,500 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012. A third of those will require a radical cystectomy.

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SVMH to meet again on merger proposals
The Californian - Salinas

Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System’s board is expected to decide Wednesday whether to continue pursuing a partnership with another health care system or go it alone. After two hours of presentations last week by two large, for-profit health care groups and from the county-owned hospital, the SVMH board decided to meet again.

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Seton Medical Center in Daly City appoints interim CEO
The Mercury News

Seton Medical Center has named James Schuessler interim president and chief executive officer. Schuessler, who starts April 9, has more than 40 years of experience, including most recently as president and CEO of Savoy Medical Center in Mamou, La. He also is a retired officer of the Army Medical Service Corps. Seton, a 357-bed hospital, is part of the Daughters of Charity Health System.

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Kaweah Delta in Visalia taking steps to improve infection rate
Visialia Times-Delta

Kathy Wittman loves a good puzzle. In her spare time, she plays hidden object games on the Internet. But at work, finding clues is part of her job as a registered nurse certified in infection control at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

“I love puzzles,” she said. “That’s how I relax.”

Back in 2010, Wittman had to don her Sherlock Holmes hat. Different bacteria were causing an above-average number of infections in separate parts of the hospital.

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What Happens If The Affordable Health Care Act Is Overturned?
KPBS

Scripps Health System is one of the largest in San Diego County, with five hospitals, 26 clinics and 13,000 employees, so it has a lot at stake in the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care reform.

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps’ president and CEO, spoke to KPBS about the current health care system. He said he is in favor of an individual mandate that each person have health insurance because he believes the system needs everyone to have health insurance.

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Medicare Boosting Coverage For Mental Health Issues
KALW

Medicare coverage for people with depression used to be, well, depressing. But that’s starting to change.

In October, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began covering screening for depression without any cost sharing when Medicare patients visit their primary care doctor. That’s a big deal, because although older people have lower rates of depression than the general population — 10.7 percent, compared with 16.9 percent overall — they often have other chronic conditions that may worsen if their depression isn’t treated.

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GOP wants assurances on protecting programs from fraud
Modern Healthcare

Republican healthcare leaders in Congress cast doubt Monday on the CMS‘ efforts to prevent shell companies from ripping off federal healthcare programs.

Republicans with leadership positions on House and Senate healthcare panels wrote Marilyn Tavenner, CMS acting administrator, Monday for details on what specific steps it is taking to prevent the use of straw men or false fronts when criminals establish themselves as Medicare or Medicaid providers.

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Sonoma County health extends mental, drug services to Cloverdale center
North Bay Business Journal

Sonoma County’s Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Alexander Valley Health Center in Cloverdale to bring “essential mental health and substance abuse treatment services” to Northern Sonoma County through its Path2Health program, but its future is now somewhat clouded with the prospect of health care reform being struck down by the Supreme Court.

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Obama calls on court to uphold health care law
San Francisco Chronicle

President Obama on Monday issued a rare, direct challenge to the Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care overhaul. He declared that overturning it would erode critical protections for millions of Americans and amount to judicial activism by an “unelected” body. Obama predicted that a majority of justices would uphold the law when the ruling is announced in June. But the president, himself a former law professor, seemed intent on swaying uncertain views in the meantime.

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Little Change for HR in Wake of Health Reform Hearings
Workforce Management

As pundits and observers speculate on the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care law after last week’s arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s been business as usual for employers who are proceeding with their compliance efforts under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve been advising clients since the beginning that the prudent course is to assume that an act of Congress will be upheld,” says Tom Christina, an attorney in the employee benefits practice of Ogletree Deakins in Greenville, South Carolina. “

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Obama Says Court Overturning Health-Care Law Would Be ‘Activism’
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama said he is confident the U.S. Supreme Court won’t strike down the 2010 health-care law, saying it would be “judicial activism” to overturn the statute that requires Americans to have insurance. “I continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law,” Obama said at a White House news conference yesterday after meeting with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.

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Sotomayor gives no hints on health care decision
San Francisco Chronicle

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is giving no hints on what the Supreme Court is going to do on the question of whether President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul law is constitutional. Sotomayor was the featured speaker Monday night at a lecture hosted by the University of the District of Columbia. The court recently heard arguments on the health care law and is expected to make a decision before the end of June. But Sotomayor made no comment on the widely followed case.

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Study: Long use of any hormones poses breast cancer risk
USA Today

New research suggests that long-term use of any type of hormones to ease menopause symptoms can raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It is already known that taking pills that combine estrogen and progestin — the most common type of hormone therapy — can increase breast cancer risk. But women who no longer have a uterus can take estrogen alone, which was thought to be safe and possibly even slightly beneficial in terms of cancer risk.

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The price of long-term care insurance coverage is on the rise
Live Insurance News

As the Baby Boomer generation comes to the cusp of the discovery that long-term care insurance may be a wise step to cover potential upcoming needs, the insurance industry has found that this sector of its marketplace is withering, the price of its policies is skyrocketing, and the available coverage is being changed by the insurers. Long-term care insurance is the coverage that has been designed to provide payments for the medical services that are not usually covered by standard health insurance, for example: in-home care, nursing homes, and assisted living.

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Community clinics ground zero for health care reform
HealthyCal.org

Veronica Villalobos works a desk in a crowded waiting room at St. James Health Center in San Jose. She’s looking for those whose low income — less than $699 per month for a single person — might qualify them for free medical care. The patients she seeks are not here for regular checkups. They earn less than 75 percent of the federal poverty line, and come to the Julian Street center because they can pay for care on a sliding scale. Some are so poor they hardly pay at all. Most waited until they were desperately sick to make an appointment.

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Budget cuts hit TB clinics at the border
HealthyCal.org

Even though many Californians think of tuberculosis as a foreign problem, experts say the cough and sneeze-surfing bacteria remains a risk in the state. Funding for disease control is shrinking, but tuberculosis is still spreading, and mutating new and increasingly lethal strains. The most drug-resistant variety of tuberculosis or TB known to science emerged a few months ago in India. Because it appears immune to every TB drug out there, scientists have dubbed it TDR TB, short for totally drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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Obama Says Health Care Law Constitutional
10News.com

President Barack Obama weighed in Monday on last week’s Supreme Court arguments about health care reform, saying he expected the justices to rule the act is constitutional. “In accordance with precedents out there, it is constitutional,” Obama said of the 2010 Affordable Care and Prevention Act passed by congressional Democrats with no Republican support.

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Lobbying justices, Obama makes his health law case
San Francisco Chronicle

President Barack Obama on Monday issued a rare, direct challenge to the Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care overhaul, weighing in with a vigorous political appeal for judicial restraint. He warned that overturning the law would hurt millions of Americans and amount to overreach by the “unelected” court. Obama predicted that a majority of justices would uphold the law when the ruling is announced in June.

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President Confident Health Law Will Stand
New York Times

President Obama declared Monday that he was confident the Supreme Court would uphold his health care law, saying it would be an “unprecedented, extraordinary” step to overturn legislation passed by the “strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” In his first public comments since court questioning last week suggested that it might find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Mr. Obama offered both a robust defense of the law and a barbed warning to justices thinking of striking it down.

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Thousands helped at free medical clinic in Sacramento
News10.net

For the second year in a row, the Remote Area Medical Foundation set up services at Cal- Expo in Sacramento.

Volunteers gave free medical, dental and vision care to more than 5,000 patients, many who are not insured or underinsured.

“We don’t have insurance. That’s why we came in here,” 17-year-old Dhania Tinoco said.

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Uphold health-care reform
Modesto Bee

Something has to be done about health care in the United States. As the president of Blue Cross (now Florida Blue) told The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board last week: “The costs are rising at a rate the private market won’t accept, and which the public sector – the government – can’t pay for.” The indispensable need for change – to cut costs, provide universal coverage, increase efficiency and eliminate waste and unfair practices – will exist regardless of whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Congress passed two years ago is upheld.

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Supreme Court needn’t fear healthcare law’s individual mandate provision
Los Angeles Times

The Affordable Care Act faced a possibly fatal challenge last week when the constitutionality of its individual mandate provision was argued in the Supreme Court.

Much of the terrain was easy going.

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The downside of mammography
Washington Post

It’s hard to wrap your head around the notion that routine mammography may, in the grand scheme of things, do more harm than good. But a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds to a growing body of evidence that the potential risks of routine breast-cancer screening via mammography might in fact outweigh such screening’s benefits.

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Is There a Republican Alternative to ObamaCare?
The Health Care Blog

“GOP to the Uninsured: (Feel Free to) Drop Dead.” So reads the title Michael Millenson post at the Health Care Blog yesterday. It gets worse: [N]o Republican presidential candidate has ever presented a serious plan to cover all the uninsured … The difference between Democrats and this generation of Republicans — unfortunately including even the GOP Doctors Caucus — is not at its core a disagreement on what government can legitimately do to help create universal access to health care for the 50 million Americans without it, but whether the goal itself is worth pursuing.

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No, Overturning ACA Would not Smooth the Way to Single-Payer Care
The Health Care Blog

This morning’s post by Matt Yglesias notes a fairly obvious but important issue that bears attention. The comportment of conservative Supreme Court justices in oral argument leads many people to seriously consider what would happen if ACA is crippled or struck down. (Like Jonathan Cohn, Henry Aaron, David Cutler, Charles Fried, and Jonathan Chait, I was appalled by the oral argument. You can read my column at healthinsurance.org for more on that subject.)

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Health Care Reform: Good for Business
The Health Care Blog

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Courtheard six hours of oral arguments for and against the constitutionality of the new health care law. As a small business owner, I am not a constitutional scholar, but I can definitively say this: the Affordable Care Act is cutting my health care costs and helping my business. My wife and I run an auto repair shop in Columbia, MD. We started as a small, family-business in 1978. Now, we’re a well-respected business with 19 employees, a long string of awards and a reputation for service.

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The Coming Boom for Hospital Chains – and Bust for Non-Profits
The Health Care Blog

For more than a year, I have immersed myself in the history of for-profit hospital chains and their associated enterprises. My goal is to produce an account of the for-profit sector that will be a valuable resource to all parties involved in the serious health care policy-making that must surely take place in coming years. Along the way, I have begun to understand the pressures that will soon make for-profit provider chains an even greater force than they already are – and will lead to an existential crisis in the non-profit hospital sector.

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If the Supreme Court Rules Against the Obama Administration …
The Health Care Blog

Throws out both the “individual mandate” (the rule requiring that virtually all Americans buy insurance, or pay a fine), and the provision that insurers must cover all applicants, and cannot charge higher premiums, even if a new customer has just been diagnosed with cancer? This might sound like the end of reform, but in fact, many of the most valuable reforms in the legislation would almost certainly still stand–including those that will change the way we pay for care, reducing costs, while lifting quality.

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